ashley + mike | chestnut mountain resort wedding.

When I first arrived to the room where the girls were getting ready on Ashley and Mike’s wedding day, Ashley turned to me in the midst of getting her hair done and said, “we really just want three good ones. You know, like three good pictures of the two of us. That’s all we need.” I laughed a little bit and agreed, particularly because I understood exactly what she meant but rarely hear it from brides. By three “good ones” she meant three good “posed” shots — the framers, the ones you make large prints of for your walls, the images you order extra copies of for your parents and send out on your Christmas card. Ashley is the definition of a laid back bride, so I knew she truly meant this statement; and later when their ceremony started thirty minutes late despite the fact that the sun would be setting soon and we’d start losing daylight, I knew she wasn’t sweating that, either.

Mike and Ashley both live in and are originally from Chicago, so I remember being a bit surprised when they mentioned that their wedding would actually take place in Galena, IL, a few hours west of the city. I overheard a few of their wedding guests laughing about the narrow, winding country roads leading up to the venue, and then heard them again later as they spoke in awe of the sun setting as two people they loved said vows on a hill overlooking the Mississippi River. It’s easy to start to feel like you’ve “seen it all” in a gig like this, but in my brief moments between photographs during their ceremony, I found myself just as in awe as their wedding guests.

Beyond their casual nature, Ashley and Mike are the kind of people who light up a room, both individually and together – they’re all smiles and wit and laughter, while also fun and determined and thoughtful and good to the ones they love. Because of this, her simply giving me the opportunity to focus on the moments surrounding them instead of the posed stuff felt like the biggest blessing I can be given in this gig. Because instead of staging for the “pretty shots”, I got to really see the way she and Mike interacted with their favorite little babes, and pay attention to how freaking beautiful a wedding ceremony can be when it’s personal and sincere, and watch the way the two of them broke into giant grins when their dog, Mila, ran toward them. I had the chance to simply document and be present, and more importantly, they were able to be that much more present with the ones who adore them on one of the happiest days of their lives. I look at these photos and honestly believe I can feel the love pouring out of these people — these images remind me of the way their laughs sounded and how they looked at each other like they both felt like the luckiest human on this earth. While I feel confident that we got those “good ones” as well, it’s the rest of ‘em that are gonna stay with me as a reminder of what I love most about this job.

Venue: Chestnut Mountain Resort
Dress: BHLDN
Floral: Oh My Floral!
DJ: Cage + Aquarium
Cake + Sweets: Chicago Sweet Connection
Hand-drawn portrait artist: Doodlebooth, Jana Kinsman

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